South Bend gym hosts event to research medical condition 3-year-old faces

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - In the gym, you go to build strength. But to build up that strength, sometimes you have to struggle. It doesn't mean you're not strong, it means you're fighting to overcome something.

While 3-year-old Mia Baxter isn't pumping iron at the gym, she is there struggling, despite how energetic she looks.

"It's interesting," said Michael Baxter, her dad. "The word 'struggle' and 'strength' and all of these things combined, and seeing how resilient a 3 1/2-year-old can be and what we struggle with every day...Over the course of three weeks, she had eight blood transfusions, four surgeries, some biopsies, CAT scans, ultrasounds, a little bit of everything. Then, they finally found what's been going on with her."

Mia's portal vein, which runs from her liver to her heart, is not doing its job. There is a surgery that would cure her, but Mia hasn't been approved yet.

"Essentially, what they would do is they would graft her jugular in her neck -- take that vein and create a new portal system," Baxter said.

Baxter owns East Race Muscle, and he says as soon as the community found out about Mia's situation, they wanted to drop everything and help by making T-shirts and hosting a push/pull event to raise funds for Mia.

"It's really hard for me to accept something like that," Baxter said. "So, what I decided to do is take the money that we'll be raising at this event and we will be putting it toward research on portal thrombosis, which is what my daughter is suffering from, and portal hypertension for pediatrics."

So, just like at East Race Muscle, where the community supports the struggling but strong lifters, the Baxters are hoping to help those strong and struggling like Mia so other strong kids can avoid the struggling in the first place.

The push-pull event is being held on May 25 with registration at 8:15 a.m. and start time at 9 a.m. Forty-five dollars gets you a T-shirt and registration by sending the money and T-shirt size to through Paypal.

If you'd like to volunteer with the event or help out in some way, you can contact the gym and Baxter at 574-339-5600

If you are unsure of what a push-pull is, it's a weightlifting event for bench press and dead lift. Baxter says if you don't want to lift, you're welcome to just come and hang out.

If you can't make it to the event and just want to help the cause, you can send money via Paypal to

Baxter says if you do send donations via Paypal, be sure to leave a T-shirt size in the comments so he can send you one.